Gordon Bolar (GB): He was a young man who knew what he wanted to do. And military service was the way that he chose to go.
Dave Isay (DI): Did he call you and tell you that he had joined the service?
GB: He did. I could kind of see it coming. And I knew I couldn’t talk him out of it, I just wanted to acquaint him with all of the implications of what he was doing. And he knew those.
His first tour of duty was in Mosul. I will not forget the day that he called me and he said, ”I had to bury my sergeant today. He was in his vehicle; he stuck his head out and then fell back. And we tried to revive him and we couldn’t.” So he knew all about casualties in the field. He’d seen it right in his lap, and he chose to volunteer and go back for a second tour.
He called me about a week to ten days before he was killed in action. He said, ”You know I heard there was a shooting on a campus at a university in the United States. And that’s all I know. And I know you work on a campus and just wanted to know that you were okay.” Now of course, I was fine but here he is in a combat situation. He’s calling to make sure I’m okay. That was the last phone conversation I ever had with him.
He was killed on a road South of Baghdad. The next morning I went to the bedroom window, and I looked out. And I saw a uniformed Army sergeant and a uniformed chaplain standing on my doorstep. And you tell yourself, maybe they’re going to tell me he’s wounded. But…but you know.
DI: What was the hardest moment for you?
GB: I think at the funeral home. Casket was open. I touched his forehead knowing that we would close the lid and bury him the next day, in Arlington, in section 60, and not see him again. That was tough.
DI: How do you want Matthew to be remembered?
GB: I want him to be remembered as somebody who cared about other people. He cared about his family back home, and he served his country and that was his highest calling. And he did it with honor. That’s how I want him to be remembered.
Gordan Bolar (GB): He was a New Orleans Saints fan and I kind of laughed at him because the Saints weren’t very good.
So I got tickets to go to see the NFC championship game between the Chicago Bears and the Saints. It was a cold day at Soldier Field in January of 2007. It was obvious to the Bear fans around us that we weren’t necessarily Bears fans but, when they found out who he was and what he was doing, you know that he might go back, they were all very friendly and very supportive.
And I remember as I dropped him off at Midway Airport, he said, ”You know dad, Bears were the better team today, but someday the Saints are going to win the Super Bowl. I just know it.”
And sure enough, two or three years later, the Saints won the Super Bowl. I became a Saints fan. And uh, he was right. And that taught me something about optimism, maybe that I didn’t have before.